James Nichols The Hockey Writers
Islanders Sign and Extend KHL Star Ilya Sorokin
It’s finally happened. The New York Islanders have agreed to terms on a one-year, entry-level contract and a one-year contract extension with goaltender Ilya Sorokin. After selecting him in the third round of the 2014 NHL Draft, the “White Whale” is finally headed to Long Island after years of questioning whether he would cross the pond.
Related: A Look Back at the New York Islanders’ 2008 Draft
Despite being ineligible to play in the Islanders’ play-in series against the Florida Panthers, Sorokin signed his entry-level contract on Monday, July 13 (Tuesday at 3 am Russian time). The deal is worth $925,000 and will be burned by the end of the 2019-20 season.
The better news is that general manager Lou Lamoriello wasn’t done, and he extended the Russian superstar through the 2020-21 season on Tuesday morning. The extension is worth $1 million, plus a $1 million bonus.
The extension works out in the Islanders’ favor, as the new NHL CBA agreement sets a flat cap in place for the next few seasons, and gave Lamoriello a better outlook of what his cap space will look like through the 2020-21 season. The sweetener, Sorokin will still be a restricted free agent at the end of his one-year extension, giving the Islanders ample opportunity to extend him to a long term contract if they see fit.
Sorokin’s Success Thus Far
It is firmly believed that Sorokin is a franchise goaltender, as he’s proven his elite skill. He has done all that he can outside of North American hockey, playing for KHL’s CSKA Moskow and on Russia’s national team.
“He’s not the most athletic, nor the tallest, but he rarely looks surprised by shots and swallows rebounds so that he doesn’t have to make a ton of difficult second-opportunity saves. I think he’s going to be a starter — and a good one…”(from ‘Wheeler: The top 10 drafted NHL goalie prospects ranking, 2020 edition.,’ The Athletic, 07/07/2020).
In the KHL, Sorokin received many accolades that made him so desirable to the Islanders. Not only has he been nominated an All-Star in five straight seasons, but he has also accrued numerous player of the week and player of the month nominations. In the 2015-16 season, he was named the league’s best goaltender, sporting an astounding .953 save percentage (SV%) and 1.06 goals-against average (GAA).
In 245 regular-season games, Sorokin compiled a .930 SV% and a 1.69 GAA over five seasons.
Dominating in back-to-back seasons, Sorokin compiled the most shutouts in the league, five in 2018-19 and nine in 2019-20. He achieved a similar feat in the playoffs, with the most shutouts in the 2018 and 2019 KHL postseasons.
Related: NHL’s 10 Most Impressive Streaks
The 2018-19 season was extra special, as he led CSKA Moskow to the Gagarin Cup, and captured Russia’s ultimate prize. Sorokin was named the KHL playoffs’ MVP.
On a national level, Sorokin is among the best. In his draft year, he helped the Russian U20 World Junior Classic team capture the silver medal. At the World Junior Championships, the Mezhdurechensk native helped Russia capture three bronze medals in 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2018-19. Finally, at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Sorokin was a member of the Olympic Athletes of Russia team that won the gold medal.
The next step for Sorokin is to travel to Long Island which is a little more difficult these days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He will have to obtain a work visa, jump on a flight, and then quarantine for enough time to test negative for the virus twice. After all that, he will be able to join the Islanders for practices, which may end up in the hub city of Toronto.
The good news is that he has already been in plenty of contact with the organization.
“He’s very excited and beyond happy to join the New York Islanders, a team with such huge history. Lou Lamoriello and I have kept very close contact and dialogue over the last 60 days,” Sorokin’s agent, Dan Milstein told amNewYork Metro. “He’s had numerous zoom calls with the coaching staff over the last month or so and he’s excited to join the team.”
Other notable KHL signings in recent days include teammates Kirill Kaprizov, who signed a two-year contract with the Minnesota Wild, Alexander Romanov on a three-year deal with the Montreal Canadiens, and Mikhail Grigorenko on a one-year contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The contract, extension, and Sorokin’s excitement are positive steps for the Islanders who’ve seemingly solidified their No. 1 goaltender for the distant future and have added another solid piece to their core moving forward.
The summer three-peat is complete. With a healthy roster heading into the play-in round, the Belmont Arena continuing construction (ahead of schedule), and landing their prize prospect, the Islanders and their fans have a lot to look forward to.
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